Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Advertising Storyboarding For Illustrators

If you search for information about how to create a storyboard you will find all kinds of interesting pieces of advice, from those that recommend you learn how to draw before you begin, to those that talk about how to tell a story, to those that list mathematical formulations for determining expansion and contraction of aspect ratio for various media including cropping to comply with 1980’s television standards, which I found quite fascinating, even if a bit superfluous. I suppose each of these articles has its place and it’s own audience, but I was searching for a concise article for illustrators about executing a conceptualized TV spot and illustrating it. Something that got right to the point with the all the details needed without many unnecessary ones.

For us illustrators, the ability to draw or to create a visual narrative comes naturally, it’s what makes us illustrators, but many of us, even though we are quite practiced in creating individual illustrations for print and for the web, may be unfamiliar with concept presentation for a non-static media—in this instance TV commercials.

© 2014 Don Arday.

The Purpose

When conceptualizing and illustrating a TV commercial it is important to be aware that storyboards are used for several purposes: 1) Selling a concept to a client. 2) Providing a visual guide for the production crew, i.e., a director, cinematographer, sound person, stylist, editor, etc. 3) Assisting in the determination and procurement of a budget. 4) Supplying reference for casting decisions. 5) Test marketing to focus groups and potential audiences. A single storyboard concept may appear in front of all of these different viewers, from an executive producer, to an account executive, to a location scout, and even to a mother and her children.

The Picture Plane

Film and video professionals refer to the picture plane as the aspect ratio of the media frame, but what it is to an illustrator or storyboard artist is the compositional space the visual appears in; and there are no portrait formats here, only landscape ones. There are several different proportional formats that have been in use over the past 100 years, but since we are mainly concerned with TV spots it is not necessary to review all of them. (Incidentally, as new smart devices come on line these proportional formats are still changing and evolving). But lets focus on TV. If we were conceptualizing a storyboard back in the 1980’s or even 90’s we would be using a 4:3 format ratio. You see this proportion all the time when you watch classic movies on TBS or old television series on TV Land. However, most TV‘s now are formatted for a 16:9 ratio. So our picture plane should be 16:9 in proportion. An equivalent storyboard frame would be 4” x 2.25”, quite a bit wider than its 4” x 3” predecessor, and a bit narrower than the 1960's Cinemascope, which would be 4” x 1.75”.

The Story

So now that the format for a storyboard has been discussed, let's look at the story it will contain. What will be significant here is not the story itself, or a particular type of story, but how to portray it. Consider that from the concept illustrator’s standpoint, the story, or storyboard, is not only drawn for an audience, but rather for a client, producer, or a production company. Therefore, a certain type of visual language is to be used—a language that can be interpreted by other creative people and visual professionals, and can be explained to clients. Think of a storyboard as being a form of visual “shorthand” for a series of visual events that will occur over time. It could be five seconds, 45 seconds, or longer. Now bear in mind, presently, media placement for a 30 second spot during prime time is as high as $326,260, and averages around $100,000. Definitely, high stakes! But where it all begins is with a storyboard of concept sketches. The storyboard artist is the visionary, with the storyboard art being the vision.

The Frames

A TV commercial concept is first presented as a storyboard, which is a series of individual frames that are usually arranged in a grid. The story begins with the top row left frame and proceeds across, it continues in the next row down left frame, and continues accordingly. There is no set amount of frames to be drawn. The number is determined by the content of the commercial, the vision of the artist, and the visual techniques that are to be suggested.

However, there are some rules to be observed. A storyboard should be as thorough as it has to be to visualize a TV spot, and at the same time as concise as possible for presentation purposes. The concept must be clear so it can be presented quickly and efficiently to both a visually, and non-visually educated audience.

The Visual Content

Content is where storyboard, book, graphic novel, comic, and editorial illustration share some similarities. All rely on the illustrator to visualize a story—to interpret the characters, provide the settings, compose the scenes, determine the points of view, and suggest the objects to be included to bring the story to life. The main differences are in the application of the illustrations. A storyboard is not afinished work of art. First, it is primarily a plan or blueprint, much the same as a sketch is to a final illustration, or a study is to a painting. And second, it is produced as a reference for a time-based media, be it a film, an animation, or a TV commercial.

The Accompanying Text

The Character Dialog

A storyboard contains text that describes elements of the TV spot which the visual is incapable of showing, e.g., the dialog. The dialog is the spoken word that occurs in the commercial. If it is stated by characters, they are attributed to it, if it is a “voice over” announcer then that is noted, usually indicated with a prefix of V.O. The dialog is notated in the same fashion as it would appear as in play. Here is an example is from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark that would work appropriately in a storyboard.

Marcellus: Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
Bernardo: In the same figure, like the king that's dead.
Marcellus: Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.
Bernardo: Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio.

The Announcer Dialog

An announcer is defined as a person who is not a character within a story. Only their voice can be heard. The announcer’s dialog is voiced over the visuals, characters, and story. Here is an example of voice over text, i.e., what an announcer would say during the scene. The following might accompany the character dialog of Marcellus and Bernardo.

VO: These days we no longer use Middle English to make funeral arrangements for our loved ones. At the Daulaz Funeral home our sympathy for your bereavement is clear.

A Talking Head

Ad agencies coined a term for an announcer who also appeared on camera, as a talking head. Usually a person meant to be a non-actor, who is explaining or endorsing the product or some information in the commercial to the audience in a direct manner. The talking head reference comes from early live television where the person would only be presented from the shoulders on up talking to an audience, thus a talking head.

The Descriptive Text

No matter how talented an illustrator is, a static storyboard frame can only suggest motion and camera movement. This is where descriptive text comes in. Phases such as camera zooms in, pan left, soft focus, dissolve, etc., are stated below each frame along with the dialog and sound track information. Here are some examples.

CAMERA: Pans across face.
EDIT: Jump cut from full face to close up.
SND: Loud drumming in background.

The Storyboard

So now we come to the illustrator/storyboard artist's task. Create a storyboard of a TV commercial to present for story visualization, review, conceptual approval, and production guidance.

Rule 1. Begin with the proper aspect ratio (proportion of the scenes) required.

The content and composition of each scene is of the utmost importance from corner to corner, so establish the right frame dimensions before beginning to sketch. It will be a waist time to have to have to redraw the entire storyboard to add width to the scenes or to crop them.

Rule 2. Use as few frames as possible to tell the story.

There is no need to make a storyboard unnecessarily complicated. Although it is being created for a motion-based media, it does not need to function like one. In other words, the frames don’t have to be repetitious or to simulate a flipbook for instance.

Rule 3. Have each frame represent a single scene.

If several actions occur within a scene they can be described rather than drawn as separate individual frames. For example, if a conversation occurs within a scene, but the camera angle doesn’t change significantly, than the scene can be rendered in one frame, with the dialog exchange occurring in a text section below on the storyboard.

Rule 4. Display the product logo or positioning statement as a separate frame.

Even if a theme line is superimposed over a cinematic frame it should be represented in an additional frame in the storyboard. Also each typographical statement that appear on screen should be a separate frame of what will be seen, with how the text will appear.

Rule 5. Begin and conclude the story properly.

Include elements that should appear in the beginning and ending frames for the storyboard. It is customary for the product, sponsor, positioning statement, or logo to be displayed at some point during a TV commercial. This happens at the beginning at a commercial occasionally, but more often at the end, to leave a viewer with the identity of the commercial’s sponsor.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Illustrative Branding

© 2014 Don Arday.
Although there is quite a bit of information about branding available, there still seems to be some confusion as to what branding is exactly. It is obviously some sort of identity, but is it an identity recognized in a physical product or a service? Is it a symbol that represents a product or service such as a logo? Is it an image that amalgamates concepts inherent in a product or service? Or could it even be a personality, attitude or spirit that is associated with, or imposed upon a product or service?

It Started With A Name

Back in the earliest days of marketing, branding wasn’t much more than a name, and usually it was the name of an inventor of a product or proprietor of a company. Products like Dr. Baker’s Tonic Laxative, Doctor I.T. Henderson’s Eureka Tonic, and Biningers’s Old Dominion Wheat Tonic to name a few.

An example of 19th century name dependant branding.
An example of 21st century name dependent branding.

The tradition still carries on today with companies such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap, Bob’s Red Mill Flour, and Begley’s Best Multi Purpose Cleaner. The visual appearance of these products is non-illustrative, with the branding relying mostly on typeface selections and sparse graphic elements. One could say these name-centric brands deliberately seek to look generic, with this rather unadorned down-to-earth approach to branding, meant to instill trust in the product and it’s maker.

Along Came Symbols

A symbol or a logo is a simplified picture meant to be an iconic representation of an entity such as a company, product, service, or even an individual. It can also serve as a symbol to convey a concept. The purpose of the picture or logo is to provide an association with any of the above for the intention of establishing a singular brand identity for marketing purposes. In addition, companies used logo symbols to build upon this concept of branding to provide a visual reinforcement for their names. Symbols can also display characteristic, and/or metaphoric associations in an attempt to produce exclusivity. The AT&T logo is an example of this. And although it may not be readily apparent, according to Interbrand, designers of the updated logo, “The result is a brand expression that is more true to its soul: a technology company that significantly impacts how people live, work and play. ‘Rethink Possible’ is rooted in optimism and possibility.”

21st century AT&T logo redesigned by Interbrand.
21st century Pepsi logo redesigned by the Arnell Group.

In the 19th century, businesses used pictorial logos to brand their companies and the products or services they provided. Logos functioned not only to identify a company and its offerings, but they did it for both the literate and illiterate populous. For example, a fishmonger would have an image of a fish on the sign that identified his business, so anyone, even foreign and immigrant customers, unfamiliar with the local language, understood the nature of the business.

Illustrated Brands Were Always Present


Illustration has played an important role in establishing easily perceivable and highly communicative brand identities over the last 200 years. In contrast to symbolic and iconic branding in visual appearance, illustrations serve to elaborate a brand’s identity through descriptive details. Illustrative branding can also provide a form of narrative documentation.

An example of this would be the illustrated identity for Levi-Strauss and Co., which depicts the famous “mythical” demonstration of two horses attempting to tear Strauss’s newly patented riveted jeans, now on every pair. Illustrative brands have the advantage of being able to project personality, attitude, and spirit more effectively than symbols, which strive for simplicity, functionality, and quick identification, even if symbols result in a loss of emotional associations.

19th century Levi Strauss Riveted Jeans branding. Artist
Mid 20th century fruit branding by Western Litho Co. 
Artist unknown.
Mid 20th century fruit branding by Western Litho Co. 
Artist unknown.
WWII war effort branding produced for the War Production 
Co-ordinating Committee. Portrait of "Rosie The Riveter." 
Artist, Howard Miller.
21st century illustrative branding for Coca-Cola. Agency,
Weiden + Kennedy. Artist, Christopher Ables.
Providing a transition into "Open Happiness" campaign, the "Coke Side of Life" 
remix project established the original illustrative branding. A variety of artists 
participated in the effort.
21st century Pepsi illustrative branding for the North American market. 
Agency, BBDO New York. Artist, Jesse Kaczarek.
21st century Pepsi illustrative branding for the European market. Agency, 
BBDO Dusseldorf. Artist, Jurg Neve.
21st century branding for the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Agency, 
Caneast Canada. Artist, Satoshi Hashimoto.
The "Taiwan -- The Heart of Asia" campaign used an illustrative series to extend 
the branding to effectively cover all tourism markets, which they identified as 
action, romance, shopping, ecology, cuisine, and ecology.
21st century festival branding for the Ann Arbor Summer 
Festival. Agency, Phire Branding. Artist, Tony Godzik.
Several illustrations were created and used to extend the festival's branding. 
21st century Apple iPod branding. Agency, Chait Day. Artist, Casey Leveque,
Rocket Studios.
The campaign branding was extended by featuring different pieces of music, 
dance styles, and figures.


Harkening, in a fashion, back to using names for branding, the use of characters, invented or otherwise, strives to interject personification into a brand identity. And with this personification, the advantages of human expressions, emotions, familiar personality traits, and even social associations can be communicated through a character brand. Characters always embody of concept to be associated with the brand they represent or endorse. 

For example, the character of Mr. Clean represents strength and cleanliness. For some, his stylization and his ability to suddenly appear are thought to be associated to a genie with the ability to wish away cleaning chores, but according to Proctor and Gamble, Ernie Allen, illustrator of Mr. Clean, used a US Navy sailor as the model for the character, although there is no evidence the choosing the sailor was based on a specific marketing concept.

Mid 20th century illustrative character branding for 
Green Giant. Agency, Leo Burnett. Artist unknown.
Late 20th century branding revision of the 1958 AMEX Centurion 
character for American Express. Artist, Steven Noble.
Update of the mid 20th century character brand for the Quaker Oats Co. 
Original artist, Haddon Sundblom.
Update of the mid 20th century character brand for Proctor
and Gamble. Original artist Ernie Allen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Illustration Plagiarism: Ways to Fight Back

So you found out you have been plagiarized. You ran an image check on one of your illustrations and found out it had been plagiarized and used without your authorization. Now you have to decide what you want to do about it. The first inclination is to go on the attack, but before you do, there are a number of things to consider that can help you determine if you should or can take action. To be clear, there is a difference between plagiarism and stealing. Stealing an image is bad enough, but plagiarism goes it one step further. And both are clearly wrong and are protected against by the US Government through Copyright legislation.
From top, left to right. Original illustration ©1992 Don Arday. Plagiarized 
illustration for book cover. Six derivative images ©2014 Don Arday.
Although plagiarists would argue that it is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarism is not simply borrowing or appropriating an image, but it includes passing it off as one’s own original illustration. In other words, plagiarism is not only stealing an image, but stealing the skill, expertise and intellectual capital that accompanies an artistic creation. As a rule, corporations don't sanction plagiarism or go out of their way to plagiarize work, but individuals do, or an individual working at a corporation might do so without the corporation’s knowledge.


Research will help you decide whether on not you want to take action. To do this, you should find out as much as you can about the perpetrator, extent of usage, and the circumstances behind the usage. Unfortunately, resolving a situation where plagiarism or stealing occurred takes a lot of time, effort, and in some cases it can be quite expensive. So there are a number of factors that will determine whether obtaining justice for an offence will be worth the effort, should be done, or can even be done. Here are two examples presenting difficulties that require further consideration.

Example One: Plagiarism
You found through an image search on Yandex.ru, which comes out of Russia that a source in China has taken one of your illustrations. The site with the image is in Mandarin and turns out to be a news site that obtained the image from an offline source with someone else being given credit for the work. Even though it seems rather straight forward, this situation would be take substantial time to unravel, and most likely any effort to track down the plagiarist would fail.

Example Two: Stealing
A fellow illustrator and colleague, Bob Dorsey, gave me the following example; and it is one that commonly happens to illustrators. Bob had produced an illustration for a Fortune 500 company specifically for in-house use by his client. Bob subsequently found out that an unknowing art director of the company’s ad agency had used the illustration for another purpose. Again it sounds straight forward, but perhaps not. A legal pursuit of additional compensation for usage, although perhaps justified, would have burned the bridge with the agency and their client resulting in the loss of future commissions.

Beneficial Courses of Action

Ok, so now that we know exactly what constitutes plagiarism and stealing, lets look at several courses of action an illustrator can take when either of these situations occur.

Send A Cease and Desist Letter

In cases where there is a non-commercial form of plagiarism, the first course of action and one of the best ways of dealing with plagiarism is to make the plagiarist aware of your rights and ask them to take your image out of circulation and cease and desist use of your illustration. If it was appropriated for online use, a cease and desist notification to the perpetrator and his/or her webhost or client usually does the trick. An effective cease and desist letter contains a “consequences” clause. In other words, what will happen if “no action” is taken by the plagiarist or thief, e.g., a lawsuit, inform their employer or client, etc.

Demand An Attribution or Retraction

If the illustration was wrongly published it may not be possible to recall it. However, notification can be served to rightfully attribute authorship of it or announce a retraction for the work, or to demand compensation for it.

Demand Compensation

Many illustrators will send an invoice to the offending party, or their client, for the plagiarized or stolen illustration. Although this doesn’t always yield any actual compensation (without further action), it is very good for letting a plagiarist and/or company know the actual value of the merchandize they stole. The plagiarist will think twice before appropriating your work again.

An Effective Combo
An effective action is to send an invoice in combination with a cease and desist letter. This is often taken more seriously than just one or the other. Again it depends on the circumstances and extent of the offence.

Hire A Lawyer 

Although time is money and it will take some time, all of the above actions can be taken without any capital outlay. If simple, low-impact tactics all fail, the next step would be to hire a lawyer to arbitrate the situation for you. Lawyers are extremely effective at this type of arbitration. In many cases they can achieve a positive result in a short period of time with minimal effort, and without having to file a lawsuit, which means their fees will be manageable—typically about $200 per hour.

File A Lawsuit

If arbitration fails then a decision whether or not to initiate a lawsuit will have to be made. This will take both time and money, and can be very expensive. Usually, these types of lawsuits are civil suits, and they take place in Civil Court, unless the plagiarist/thief violates criminal law. In civil suits, even if you win, lawyer’s fees are seldom grated along with any compensation to be awarded, so you will have to bare the costs of any legal fees. Thus, a decision to move forward with a lawsuit should be cost out and carefully considered.

Non-Beneficial Courses of Action

Publicly Expose The Plagiarist

With social media such as Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Chat Groups, etc., giving individuals exposure to large audiences, there is a great temptation to expose a plagiarist by name to the public. Although it seems that that there is nothing wrong with this, an eye for an eye, so to speak it is not a good idea. The laws that protect an individual or company’s standing in society are just as powerful as those that protect copyright ownership. And, denouncing a plagiarist from outside evidence could easily trigger a slander suit against the illustrator whose work was taken, especially if the illustrator is challenging an established company.

Sue Prematurely

I had a situation similar to Bob’s where a client that originally commissioned and paid for a set of illustrations that I produced republished them at a later date. The client didn’t realize that they had only purchased rights for publishing the images one time. Working first though the design agency that commissioned the work, and eventually the client directly, I did receive payment in full, but it took about 13 months. During this time I looked into taking the clients to court (There was the possibility that I would have had to sue the design firm and the client separately). The attorney’s fee and court costs would have far exceeded the amount I could charge for the additional usage of the illustrations. By being patient, and working at a low-impact resolution, I was able to receive the full benefit of the payment.

In The Too Much Information Category

The word plagiarism is derived from the Latin word “plagiarius” which means kidnapper, plunderer. The first common use originates in 1621 with reference to literary thievery. The common definition today is to steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one's own, to use another's production without crediting the source.


It is important to have patience, keep a cool head, and be persistent when dealing with plagiarism or theft. It may take many months to reach reconciliation. Determine early on what form of recompense you wish to get, be it the removal of an image from a website, an apology, proper attribution, or payment for the use of your illustration. Consider your effort to receive justice as a process. Satisfactory results can be achieved by beginning with low-impact methods before engaging high-cost ones.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Illustration Plagiarism Checking

With the Internet being all pervasive and worldwide, it pays to check out where your images may show up and in what context they have been used. The web makes it very easy for someone to grab and save an image for an unauthorized form of use. And now with Google Image, Google’s image collecting search engine, an image can be grabbed without having to visit the original URL where it resides. By initiating image checks, many illustrators are finding examples of their work having been appropriated without their consent or knowledge. And although many instances occur in editorial environments some uses occur for commercial purposes.

Image plagiarism can come from more than one direction. Firstly, we illustrators can be victims of it by having our work stolen and/or used to create derivative illustrations. Secondly, we can unknowingly fall victim to it through the adaptation of a previously seen image that stuck in our memory that we have resurrected, subconsciously, to solve an illustration problem. Although this does occur on rare occasions it is much less likely to convey our relationship with plagiarism. Lastly, images can be checked against pictorial reference sources to determine if there is a possible copyright violation. Although it doesn’t happen often, an image check can reveal identity results in all three areas.

Browser Image Searching

Google Image Search

There are two ways to search for images on Google. You can upload an image file to Google Images and you can also use Google Search to enter the file name of an image file.

Searching By Name
It is good practice to choose easily distinguishable file names for your images. This makes them easier to track. When an image is plagiarized for use on another site, it’s file name and metadata go with it if the person who acquired it didn’t change the data, and many plagiarists overlook having to do so to disguise the theft, especially persons unfamiliar with English. Entering an
image file name on Google Search or any of other search engine can yield a positive result.

The results of a search of one of my images (on the left 
© 1992 Don Arday), revealed it had been plagiarized for use 
as a book cover (on the right).
Searching By Image
Google Images can not only search for images by name, but it can search for an image by using an uploaded image file. The image search engine uses pattern and color recognition software to attempt to match those attributes that exist in the image. At this point in time, as seen in the example below, the recognition software lacks sophistication, but Google is working to improve it.

Follow these steps to search by image file.

Go to https://www.google.com/imghp and click on the camera icon.

Select "Upload an image" and locate the file you wish to search on your
computer or mobile device.

View results if a match is found. This is just a portion of the results from
my search.

Google also suggests what it's recognition software finds to be images 
with similar visual traits. Although none were found in this search, 
this feature can be helpful in finding derivative images. 

Firefox Image Search

Who Stole My Pictures (WSMP) is a Firefox add-on that makes three image search engines available though the Firefox browser. WSMP differs from Google Image in that you must download an add-on to the Firefox browser to search for a URL address image, or to upload an image file for a search. Any image that has a URL address can be searched. The extension must be installed in the Firefox browser and is contained in a sub-menu that becomes available with “Who Stole My Pictures” as an option when you right-click, or control-click, on an online image. You can then choose between Yandex.ru, TinEye.com, or Google.com to perform the image search. You can also upload an image from your computer.

Follow these steps to search.

Open the Firefox browser and go to the URL containing an image file. 
Then right-click (option-click) on an image. A flyout menu will appear.

Mouse over "Who stole my pictures". Another flyout menu will appear with
the option to choose an available search engine.

TinEye is one of three options available.

Also available via the flyout menu, an image file can be uploaded to one of 
the search engines.

This was the result of the search from the image that was used in the Google 
Image example and uploading it to the TinEye option in Who Stole My 
Pictures on Firefox.

Safari Image Search

BacTrack is the Safari add-on that makes multiple image search engines available though the Safari browser. Like WSMP, you must download an add-on in the browser to search for a URL address image or to upload an image file for a search.  Any image that has a URL address can be searched. The extension is contained in a sub-menu that becomes available. The BackTrack option appears when you right-click, or control-click, on an online image. You can then choose between Tineye.com, Bing.com, or Google.com to perform the image search. You can also upload an image from your computer. Since it is so similar to WSMP, there was no need to show the step by step here.


Yandex is another browser based image search service that originates in Russia. Although entirely in Cyrillic text, Yandex uses universal icons to make it easier to figure out, and there is also an English version available through a link. The largest search engine in Russia, and similar to Google Search, Yandex offers searching by filename, URL address, and image upload.


An search engine specifically for image searching, Picsearch will yield better search results than some other big search engines. The product of a Swedish company, the Picsearch Image Search Engine features special filters that you can use to search a subject specific image type, like searching by animation or by faces, etc. It uses four kinds of filters; type, size, color and orientation; and Picsearch contains a database of over 3 billion images.


The Exalead Search Engine can be customized through several filter options to search for faces, change a background to black or white, or for prefixed size desktop wallpapers. It will search by color, B&W, or by image size. You can click on options to view direct image links with no frames, or click the image to browse the images and their source sites in frames. Exalead was developed by Dessault Systemes, a France-based company.

Hosted Image Searching


TinEye is a reverse image search engine that can search out the origin of an image, the image use, modified versions of an image, and other resolutions of an image. It is free to use for non-commercial searching. TinEye uses image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks to locate an image and other derivative images. TinEye crawls the web for new images, and we also accept contributions of online image collections. To date, TinEye has indexed 5,554,463,739 images from the web.

Another way to use TinEye is to install it as a browser plug-in for Google Chrome. Although non-commercial searching is free, TinEye has other commercial image search products including MatchEngine, MulticolorEngine, MobileEngine, and PixID available as subscription services for corporate clients.